By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports activities NASCAR Author
The seven drivers competing for the three remaining spots to vie for the NASCAR Cup Collection championship can take completely different approaches to incomes these spots.
However the consensus is that they may all should do one factor this weekend at Martinsville Speedway: They have to qualify nicely Saturday.
This season’s 400-lap race on the 0.526-mile, paper-clip oval had simply 5 lead adjustments the complete race. Drivers will go 500 laps (a minimum of) Sunday, and NASCAR has modified among the gearing since April, however passing is predicted to be at a premium.
With spots within the “Championship 4” on the road, there is likely to be extra aggressiveness and extra makes an attempt to rise up entrance. However a driver who doesn’t qualify nicely doubtless gained’t earn stage factors, placing much more of an emphasis on profitable the race.
“Just have to qualify well,” mentioned Denny Hamlin, who enters the race as the primary driver beneath the cutline. “Got to be fast in restarts, and we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
Denny Hamlin on his day at Homestead
Denny Hamlin mentioned his lack of short-run velocity made the distinction final Sunday at Homestead.
Because of his win within the semifinal spherical (NASCAR’s “Round of 8”) opener at Las Vegas, Joey Logano is the one driver who is aware of he’ll compete for the championship Nov. 6 at Phoenix.
The opposite seven championship-eligible drivers can advance both with a win or by being among the many two (or three if none of them wins) highest in factors.
“The first race was extremely hard to pass,” mentioned Chase Briscoe, whose solely cheap hope of constructing the playoffs is to win.
“If you can get track position and maintain it, it’s going to be easy, I think, to be able to control the race.”
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Listed here are the outlooks for the seven drivers heading into Martinsville:
Ross Chastain (+19 on fifth): Chastain can clinch his first spot within the Championship 4 with 41 factors, it doesn’t matter what some other driver does. His second-place finishes within the first two races of the spherical additionally give the Trackhouse Racing driver the tiebreaker towards any of the opposite drivers. He completed fifth at Martinsville, and that was a superb end, however he began twenty seventh, so he earned solely 32 factors that day. If he begins twenty seventh this time, stage factors can be tough to return by, and he may find yourself on the bubble.
Ross Chastain on making an attempt to catch Kyle Larson
Ross Chastain mentioned he was just a bit too tight to have the ability to make the strikes essential to catch Kyle Larson at Homestead.
Chase Elliott (+11 on fifth): Elliott can clinch his third consecutive spot within the Championship 4 with 50 factors, it doesn’t matter what some other driver does. That may require a minimum of 15 stage factors, and if he accomplishes that, he doubtless can be in place to problem for the win. The Hendrick driver was on the pole, led 195 laps and swept the phases on his approach to a Tenth-place end (47 factors whole) at Martinsville in April. The 2020 Cup champion a minimum of is aware of how one can deal with stress conditions.
Chase Elliott on his day at Homestead
Chase Elliott mentioned he was enjoying protection all day at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Be a winner
William Byron (+5 on fifth): Byron is above the cutline, however given the potential that Hamlin or Ryan Blaney wins, Byron must enter this race with the mindset that he should contend for the win. Sure, the Hendrick driver may catch and cross Elliott and Chastain on factors, however they each have proven power at Martinsville. Byron gained at Martinsville in April — he led 212 laps — so he has confidence that he can repeat. He is looking for his first journey to the championship spherical.
Denny Hamlin (-5 behind fourth): Hamlin has 5 profession victories at Martinsville however in all probability doesn’t enter with a ton of confidence. His crew has lacked velocity in latest playoff races, and the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was twenty eighth in April at Martinsville. Nonetheless, Hamlin has made the championship spherical every of the previous three years, and also you by no means depend out somebody with 48 profession Cup wins.
Ryan Blaney (-18 behind fourth): Blaney left the primary two races of this spherical annoyed, as errors have put him in a gap such that he may have the ability to vie for a spot on factors if he runs nicely in each phases, however he doubtless has little probability of advancing and not using a win. He was good at Martinsville in April, ending fourth, however matching that doubtless gained’t be ok for the Staff Penske driver, who’s winless on the 12 months and observing being eradicated within the semifinal spherical for the fourth time in six years.
Ryan Blaney annoyed over his mistake
Ryan Blaney was annoyed with himself for making a mistake in leaving pit highway at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Christopher Bell (-33 behind fourth): He has performed it earlier than — Bell gained a couple of weeks in the past on the Charlotte highway course to advance to this spherical — so he can do it once more. However will he? He was twentieth at Martinsville in April. As is the case with Bell’s JGR teammate Hamlin, this simply won’t be his 12 months, which is unusual to write down contemplating that he appeared like a favourite after the primary spherical.
Chase Briscoe (-44 behind fourth): Briscoe wrecked at Homestead and has put his again towards the wall, needing to win at Martinsville. He was ninth there in April, so he might want to present stable enchancment. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver gained at Phoenix earlier this 12 months, so if he can pull off a miracle at Martinsville, he could be one of many favorites for the title.
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports activities. He has spent a long time overlaying motorsports, together with the previous 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting Information, NASCAR Scene journal and The (Daytona Seaside) Information-Journal. Comply with him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and join the FOX Sports activities NASCAR E-newsletter with Bob Pockrass.
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